Could it be that the automobile's luster has faded over the years, that cars have become less synonymous with youth and freedom to Generation Y? A study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute clearly says yes, but that's not the whole story, Bloomberg reports. Though young people are buying fewer new cars, baby boomers, the crowd born between 1946 and 1964, are buying more new cars.

Young people aren't flocking to buy used cars, either ... there's a growing percentage of them who legally can't drive.

People aged 55-64 had the highest rate of new-vehicle purchases in 2011, according to the study, and they've become the age group most likely to buy a new car. Just four years ago, the population aged 35-44 was most likely to buy a new car, which goes to show how much the auto industry and its customer base has changed since the recession in 2008. But the decline in miles driven by Americans started in 2004, according to another study by the University of Michigan, much of which has been related to lifestyle choices, such as urban living and public transit.

"The car was a phenomenon of the 20th century," says John Wolkonowicz, an automotive historian and former Ford product planner. Young people aren't flocking to buy used cars, either. The data of registered drivers in the US shows that they're not just avoiding new car purchases, there's a growing percentage of them who legally can't drive. In 2011, only 79 percent of drivers aged 20-24 had driver licenses, compared with 92 percent in 1983. Conversely, the percentage of the population aged 60-64 with driver licenses is 93 percent today, but was 84 percent in 1983.

So what can an automaker do? Marketing hasn't helped sway young people, as vehicles like the Honda Element, which was aimed at 25-year-olds, were bought more by baby boomers, says John Morel, a market researcher for Honda. "But your propensity to buy a car at 25 is roughly a quarter of what it is at 65," he relates. "By definition, very few cars sell in high volume to 20-somethings."


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  • 70 Comments
      Todd Fleming
      • 2 Years Ago
      its so simple, when people even young buyers have the money and means to buy a car they will. I find it mind-numbing that companies even spend money on reports like this. Open your damn eyes and look around, ya morons! How about you quit spending a million bucks on stupid reports like this! It's not hard to see that people are not making money like they used to, oh wait, they're too busy counting their money to wonder why the ship is sinking. It's amazing that the people who build the cars can't afford them and management turns around and wonders why cars aren't selling. (insert face-palm image)
      Hunter Adams
      • 2 Years Ago
      Coming from a 17 year old, I'd say people older than me have better paying jobs than I have (minimal wage) and can afford newer cars? I don't get new cars from my parents. I have to buy it with my own money. Which I did for my first truck. And I will be using my money and hard work at my job to afford my 05 Suabaru STi in the next year or so.
        superchan7
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Hunter Adams
        Keep it up, bro! It's a long process, but take your job(s) seriously and you will enjoy the rewards.
      JeepinBen
      • 2 Years Ago
      I bought a new car at age 22 and I'll buy another new car in a few years. But my 4 year engineering degree means I'm already making above median income for a family of four. Some higherup at Ford talked about this the other day. It's not an age issue, it's a money issue. Thanks to the recession, young people have much higher unemployment and credit is much harder to come by. All the baby boomers already have houses, credit, etc. and can afford a new car much more easily.
        Kumar
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JeepinBen
        "All the baby boomers already have" >>> "More baby boomers already have..." Fixed it for you - There are many boomers out there who would be penniless if not for social security and possibly a pension if they're lucky. More after 401k accounts were slashed in the recession. You are correct money plays a role, but so does the method for interacting with your peers. In the 80s, you had to go somewhere to hang out with people. These days, it's hangout by proxy over social media/texting/etc. so there's less urgency for personal transportation outside of work needs.
          clquake
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Kumar
          You're greatly over estimating the physical hanging out. Skype/facebook/G+/whatever doesn't replace it, it supplements it.
      m
      • 2 Years Ago
      "But your propensity to buy a car at 25 is roughly a quarter of what it is at 65" So let me get this straight. They're saying that 25 year olds, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in college debt that they thought was going to get them jobs, are buying fewer cars than 65 year olds that spent most of their careers during a giant economic boom? Well that sure is shocking. It must be because they aren't interested in cars. It's the only logical conclusion.
      djvinnybricks
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am the adult child of boomers, and I have known very few people outside of that generation who could afford to buy a brand new car. i can count on one hand the number of gen-Y/Y-ers I know who have bought new.
      Gator
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's because the buck doesn't go as far and we aren't making the same as our parents.
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      Thanks Captain Obvious.
      sp33dklz
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am a huge car enthusiast and always will be. I refuse to daily drive anything that doesn't give me a great sense of driving, I'll even pay a premium for the repairs for such privilege. I am BY FAR the minority. I am 34 and have two younger sisters aged 18 and 26. Neither of them have their drivers' licenses and neither of them intend to get one. The trend is growing amongst the younger crowd who no longer sees the necessity to splurge or blow money on private/personal transportation. Until auto-makers come up with something people in this demographic want to buy, their industry is a dying breed, despite its recent growth. Twenty years from now when this 18-30 year old range is 38-50, I doubt their perceptions will change. Cars are just too damn expensive. Start building stripped down cars that look good, are safe, and integrate smart-phones, and get great MPG, and they'll sell like crazy. I'm also referring to a $7-$9k range.
        Chip
        • 2 Years Ago
        @sp33dklz
        I'm the opposite of you. I read Autoblog daily, I love looking at all the new cars, love ogling the new exotic BMW-of-the-day and lust after the new Caddies and whatnot, but cars as a whole are too damn expensive and while I absolutely love looking at them and am a fan, I'm above all else a practical person and can't see myself ever spending the kind of coin the higher-end cars today command. To me, it's just not worth it. Thumbs up to the people here who said we need more $7-$9k cars to get the younger generation interested again.
      Chris
      • 2 Years Ago
      And in other news? I swear; why do they feel the need to state obvious over and over again? Boomers have more money than their kids. It's not rocket science.
      J
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is what you get when you mix increasing costs of living, housing costs, and gas costs with stagnating wages. Something has to give, and auto industry, it looks like you're it.
      DamCharger
      • 2 Years Ago
      Maybe due to the recession the parents are handing down their cars to their kids more, or signing on the dotted line instead both of which are probably skewing this data?
      David
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow! Sounds like a lot of sour grapes from a number of posters here! Blaming others because they can’t afford a new car! It sounds like generational envy to me. You don’t think those before you had school debt? If I adjusted for inflation the debt I had at graduation would be about $25K in today’s dollars so don’t whine about your school debt, instead use that knowledge to move yourself forward. I enjoy automobiles enough to have purchased a new car every year I was in college. Not help from Mom and Dad! I guess I could have graduated without any school debt but I used my savings and worked through college so I could have the cars that I wanted. Oh, my first new car, a new Z28 when I was 18. Keep up the negative attitude and you will never get that new car!
        LBFTPSEC
        • 2 Years Ago
        @David
        I agree!! I think the problem is that today there is too much opportunity for youngsters to waste money on things that were never available 20 years ago. Computers, smart phones, video games etc never even existed before so there were less tempatations. Also, parents today are lazy, and nobody cooks at home anymore to save money. I know so many people that rarely eat at home even though they proclaim themselves as "poor". They could be saving thousands and thousands of dollars with a little effort. With some discipline, anyone can afford a new car, you just have to get your **** in order. I have never been given anything, and in University I bought 2 new cars in addition to paying for tuition. If you work your ass off, you can have whatever you want, but people shouldn't blame "the system" or other factors for their own personal situations.
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